Walking Hadrian’s Wall

A guest blog post 
by Cimorene Ross

It was the year I left school that I first encountered Roman remains. It was also the summer that the first incarnation of THE EAGLE’S WING was born as a school project, along with the Sixth Form play, to keep us occupied after the A-level exams until the end of term. My friend and I decided to walk from Northumberland back home to Yorkshire, staying at Youth Hostels on the way.

On the first day we visited Corstopitum (Corbridge), which had been replaced by the fort at Halton when Hadrian’s Wall was built. It didn’t become a supply base until much later, so wasn’t in use during the period of THE EAGLE’S WING.

The following day we discovered Cilurnum (Chesters), which I must admit was the only time I have visited the fort that I hijacked to house the 3rd Augusta Gallorum (with apologies to the 2nd Asturian Horse who actually garrisoned the place). Cilurnum is situated beside the river where the remains of the Roman bridge can still be seen alongside what is considered to be the best military bath-house in Britain.

Ruins of bath-house at Chesters Roman Fort, along Hadrian’s Wall. (photo by Steven Fruitsmaak, 2007, Wikimedia Commons)

The reason I chose Chesters rather than the better known neighbouring Vercovicium (Housesteads) is that I needed a cavalry fort. Housesteads is a much bigger site built on a windswept hillside.

That summer in the early sixties we walked along the Wall itself exploring milecastles and watching rock climbers ascending from Crag Lough. Since then I have been back to Housesteads, once in a fog which was very creepy. It was easy to imagine that an infantryman would emerge from the mist at any moment.

The last time I visited Housesteads was on the way back from an American Civil War event in Tynemouth, so Morgan Cheshire and I were accompanied by two Confederate soldiers which garnered some very odd looks. It being too warm for Victorian costume, Morgan and I were both in mufti, so we explored the praetorium and the hospital (my model for the one in Eboracum) while the scruffy members of the 33rd Virginia were unaccountably fascinated by the communal latrine in the south-east corner.

The latrines of Housesteads Roman Fort along Hadrian’s Wall. (photo by Steven Fruitsmaak, 2007, Wikimedia Commons)

Once we’d managed to drag them away and back onto the Military Road, our journey was disrupted by an overturned lorry stuffed with chickens – which brings me to Vindolanda (Chesterholm) and the 3rd Augusta Gallorum’s obsession with chicken rustling.

I know I have been to Vindolanda but I can’t remember when or with whom. Appealed to on the telephone, Morgan swears she has never set foot in Vindolanda, so it remains a mystery.

Some thirty or so years ago there was the amazing discovery of the hoard of letters that have revealed so much about life on Hadrian’s Wall. A recent issue of the Association for Roman Archaeology’s newsletter announced that there has been a new discovery of 1st Century writing tablets. It will be interesting to see what these reveal once the tablets have been deciphered. All my information about chickens in the diet of soldiers comes from the previous letters published in Anthony Birley’s book GARRISON LIFE AT VINDOLANDA. Until I read that I wasn’t even sure that domesticated poultry had reached Northern England.

My research into cavalry auxiliary forts came from these early visits and a lot of reading. All the books said that the arrangement of barracks and stables are still mostly conjecture for the smaller cavalry forts, and I chose to use what most archaeologists have agreed on.

It wasn’t until I had finished the epic that I visited two unusual forts, both courtesy of our village Coffee Club’s summer trips. About three years ago we went to South Shields. I and several other historically minded people set out to discover Arbeia, which is perched on a hill and acted as a seaport and supply depot, now incongruously surrounded by modern housing. An hour later and I was on my own (my fellow explorers long gone in search of lunch), admiring the reconstructed buildings – the magnificent gatehouse, the commanding officer’s house and, more importantly, a barrack block complete with officer’s quarters at one end.

The reconstructed barrack-block at Arbeia Roman Fort, in South Shields. (photo by Chris McKenna, 2005, Wikimedia Commons)

Long after THE EAGLE’S WING was published I finally reached reached Segedunum (Wallsend) on one of the last Coffee Club trips (most members are now too old or infirm for day trips). No one was surprised when I abandoned everyone in Newcastle to disappear down into the Metro and head for Wallsend. It is the only railway station in the world with signs in both English and Latin.

The fort has been excavated, but cut in two by the main road. Houses built on the site in the late 19th Century have since been demolished. It is now one of very few places in the Roman Empire where a fort can be seen almost in its entirety (the road is still a problem).

The cavalry barracks at Segedunum are several centuries after Lucius and Keret’s time and are totally different from those at Cilurnum. There the stables are separate entities, but in Segedunum three horses are stabled in the front part of the barracks with three cavalrymen sleeping in the back room. The decurion and his under-officers lived in the larger set of rooms, complete with their horses, at the end of each barrack block. It would have been nice to have seen this layout earlier, but the Cilurnum design suits the Pannonians better – the Wallsend pattern gives them no room for stockpiling ill-gotten gains.

Segedunum has an extensive museum with reconstructions of barracks and the strongroom, while a decorated bath-house is based on the Chesters building as the original hadn’t been found at the time. The real bath-house was discovered down by the River Tyne after the existing buildings were demolished in 2014, and parts have been excavated and are now on display to the public.

Segedunum Roman fort., from the viewing platform. (photo by Keith Edkins, 2004, Wikimedia Commons)

The legionary fortresses of Deva (Chester) and Eboracum (York) have very few remains visible above the ground apart from bits of the walls in York and the amphitheatre in Chester. There are smaller remains open to the public in unlikely places such as the basement of Spud U Like (a takeaway serving baked potatoes), and a piece of the strongroom is hidden in a side-street in Chester. The foundations of the headquarters building can be seen under York Minster. It is well worth a visit to the Grosvenor Museum in Chester and the Yorkshire Museum in York.

I would recommend membership of the Association for Roman Archaeology to anyone interested in this subject. Membership not only includes newsletters but free or discounted entry to 45 Roman-related sites.

Being a librarian, even though retired, I can’t help but conclude with a book-list.

More price reductions on old favourites

Continuing our year of changes throughout MANIFOLD PRESS, we’re introducing another set of permanent price reductions on classic titles.

BETWEEN NOW AND THENBETWEEN NOW AND THEN by Adam Fitzroy – now $4.95!

It’s 1991, and a group of English football fans are driving across Belgium; their trip takes them through the site of a former battle, and that’s when a strange sequence of events begins. For Dennis and Allan, colleagues who cordially dislike each other, this means journeying further still – into what appears to be the past, and into the lives of two men who travelled this way seventy-five years earlier, whose unfinished love-affair remains to be played out in full. As they move backwards and forwards in time Dennis and Allan have only themselves to rely on, no markers to show them where they’re going, and no real certainty of ever finding their way home again.

MONTANA REDMONTANA RED by Jane Elliot – now $4.95!

It’s out of the frying-pan and into the fire on the day Henry first meets Red. He’s happy enough at first to be having sex with a man – Heaven knows, it’s better than what he’s running away from! – but it isn’t too long before Red’s sexual extravagances are driving the two of them apart. It’s only when Henry’s trying to manage on his own again that he at last begins to achieve a little perspective – on inversion in general, on himself in particular, and even on his relationship with Red. That’s when he starts to wonder if maybe there isn’t a way back for them after all, but this time it will definitely have to be on his terms…

THE EAGLE'S WINGTHE EAGLE’S WING by Cimorene Ross – now $5.95!

Roman Gaul: Lucius Valerius Carus isn’t naturally impulsive; when he suddenly and unexpectedly buys a slave at a market it’s because he feels sorry for a man who has obviously been maltreated in the past. However he’s taken on far more than he bargained for with Keret – intelligent, educated, and a great deal stronger than he looks. Roman society wouldn’t think twice about Lucius using Keret for his sexual pleasure – indeed, it would be astonished if he didn’t – but it’s likely to be horrified if it ever learns that Lucius has started to respect his slave, and absolutely disgusted if it discovers that he’s gradually beginning to fall in love…

HUNTEDHUNTED by Liz Powell – now $6.95!

As a professional footballer it looks like Adam Hunter has it all, but when the secret of his affair with midfielder Louie Jackson begins to leak out he’s plunged into the depths of misery – prompting a desperate series of manoeuvres to conceal the truth. Injured, distrusted by his team-mates and plagued by personal tragedy, Adam goes from hero to zero – and by the time Louie’s transferred to a German side he’s running out of reasons to stay alive. If there’s any way back from the brink of suicide, it isn’t clear to him at the moment…

THE WALLED GARDENTHE WALLED GARDEN by F.M. Parkinson – now $6.95!

William Ashton, retained as a gardener by Edward Hillier, discovers his new master to be a detached and driven man. Over the years, as travail and tragedy bring them closer together, he understands that they have more in common than he first realised, but the affection they feel for one another will be sorely tested by boundaries both of class and of rigid Victorian morality. Like the private garden behind the high walls their love must flourish only in the strictest secrecy – or else it will not do so at all.

If you missed any of these diverse and fascinating titles earlier in their illustrious careers, this would be a wonderful opportunity of making their acquaintance!

Valentine’s Day Giveaway – Day Two

ValentinesDayBanner

Thank you, dear Readers! The comments left for us yesterday made us blush with their kind wishes. We sincerely hope you all enjoyed the day, in whatever way you wished to celebrate (or not!).

With the help of random.org, we have drawn a name out of the virtual hat from yesterday’s entries: Chris asked for a copy of THE EAGLE’S WING by Cimorene Ross, and that will be flying your way very soon, Chris!

Chris and all our other lovely readers are now very welcome to enter the second day of the giveaway. Also, please stay tuned for some very exciting news being announced here this afternoon!

For seven days from Valentine’s Day, we’re giving away one free book per day, with the draws to be made as close as possible to 12.00 midday UK time starting on Sunday 15 February.

To win the Manifold Press book of your choice all you need to do is tell us – in a screened reply below:

  • your first name,
  • your email address,
  • the title of the book you’d like, and
  • the format you prefer (epub, mobi or pdf).

All our current titles are available, but only in electronic formats.

If you are successful once, don’t let it deter you from entering again; you can win twice before being disqualified for the rest of the giveaway.

So come on in and join us. It’s a great chance to experiment with the work of a new author, or to complete the backlist of a favourite – and good luck and best wishes to everyone who takes part!

New review of THE EAGLE’S WING

THE EAGLE'S WINGOnce again Elisa Rolle, steadfastly working her way through her TBR pile, has done us proud – this time with her highly favourable comments on Cimorene Ross’s THE EAGLE’S WING:

It was also good to read how the author grasped the custom of the time: that Lucius bought Keret as a bed slave wasn’t strange at all, but that he wanted a relationship with him was basically forbidden

and she closes by saying:

it was for sure an original Gay romance, out of the thousand of titles you can find out there.

We figure if anyone should know about those ‘thousands of titles’ it’s Elisa, and we’re very glad that she felt this one stood out from the crowd. Thank you, Elisa, and congratulations to Cimorene for making an impression!

AND THE WINNER IS …

Thank you all for entering our EXTREMELY RANDOM HARVEST giveaway draw; the last winner for this time round has just been drawn, and it’s Helena – who should by now have received her copy of THE EAGLE’S WING by Cimorene Ross.

Although that’s the end of the freebies for the time being, please keep an eye on this LJ as we will be giving away more books later in the summer. Meanwhile, we hope those of you who were successful will enjoy reading your books, and that those of you who weren’t will try again in the future!

And now, we start the countdown to our two new releases on 1 May; we just can’t wait!

DAY TWO OF OUR EXTREMELY RANDOM HARVEST GIVEAWAY

Welcome to

random harvest banner

For the next six days we will be giving away one free book each day. Just reply to this post with your first name, e-mail address, the title of the current Manifold Press book you’d like to win, and your preferred format – all replies are screened; we’ll select a winner at random at 12.00 noon on 16 April (UK time).

You can enter once per day for as many days as you like, but nobody is allowed to win more than twice.

This is a great chance to experiment with a book or an author you haven’t yet tried, or to complete the backlist of a favourite; whatever your tastes, we’re sure to have something that will appeal to you – so what have you got to lose? Come on in and join us – the more, the merrier!

– – – – –

The Day One winner was Mead, who chose THE EAGLE’S WING by Cimorene Ross; congratulations, Mead – it’s on its way to you already.

Fourth Day winner

Thank you once again to everyone who took part in our free giveaway draw – and congratulations to today’s winner, Monica, who has chosen to receive a copy of Cimorene Ross’s debut novel THE EAGLE’S WING. We’ll be in touch with you about it shortly, Monica!

Meanwhile, the Fifth Day draw is about to open; you all know how this works by now, so we’ll look forward to seeing you again in the screened comments as usual … and good luck, everybody!

Two new titles on sale today!

We’re delighted to say that our two new titles, Julie Bozza’s OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES (Book Two of the BUTTERFLY HUNTER trilogy) and Chris Quinton’s GAME ON, GAME OVER, are now available to order from our website and online shop.

– – – – –

We’ve been a bit lax with the statistical information lately, so for the sake of completeness here are the gory details:

Our best-selling title in September was Julie’s BUTTERFLY HUNTER (a perennial favourite!), and for October the best-selling title was Cimorene Ross’s THE EAGLE’S WING. Our average response time for the past three months has been five hours 17 minutes.

New title[s] for 1 November announced today!

There’s a slight variation to our usual procedure this time; we’re only able to announce one new title to you at the moment, but it’s a biggie! OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES is the eagerly-awaited sequel to Julie Bozza’s popular BUTTERFLY HUNTER and continues the story of Dave and Nicholas; now staying with Nicholas’s family in England, there are so many plans and preparations to be made that Dave wishes they could just skip ahead to the honeymoon – a honeymoon which, as it turns out, is not exactly uneventful!

For legal reasons (i.e., we won’t own the rights for another few days!) we are going to have to keep you in suspense about our second publication this time; we’ll be announcing the details of it on Thursday 10 October. They will both, however, be on sale as usual from 1 November.

Those of you who are especially quick off the mark may already have noticed the ‘stealth-release’ of our two 1 August titles, Jane Elliot’s MONTANA RED and Cimorene Ross’s THE EAGLE’S WING, which have been available on both Amazon and Smashwords since the weekend; they are now also available to buy from AllRomance eBooks.

On a sad note, we’d like to say how sorry we are that Rainbow E-Books have ceased trading. They were always very friendly and a positive delight to deal with, and even though their share of the market wasn’t exactly massive they did sell quite a lot of books for us which we truly appreciated. We wish everyone concerned the very best of luck in whatever they choose to undertake next.

New review of THE EAGLE’S WING

Over at MM Good Book Reviews, a reviewer named Thommie has recently pronounced on Cimorene’s THE EAGLE’S WING.  We wish it was a review of unqualified praise, but unfortunately the gentle tone (described as ‘passive’ in the review) did not quite meet this particular reviewer’s requirements.  Oh well, we all want different things from our reading matter and it’s impossible to please everyone – better luck next time, we hope!

“The obstacles this pair had to overcome lost their importance, the victory over them lost its shine, and the most intense scene in the entire story that should have been when Keret finally gives himself willingly to Lucius, was barely touched in the haste of telling the tale.”